Press Release: High Court Petition: Allow Palestinians access to the archaeological site of Tel Almit

 April 3 2016

Anata village council head together with “Emek Shaveh” and “Yesh Din” demand that the court allow villagers access to the site, located on their land and part of their heritage

Council Head of the Palestinian village of Anata and its residents appealed on Tuesday, March 31, 2016, to the Israeli High Court together with the organizations “Emek Shaveh” and “Yesh Din”. They demanded that the court order the commander of IDF forces in the West Bank to allow villagers access to the archaeological site of Tel Almit, and return to the residents lands that had been transferred to the Binyamin Regional Council.

The petition, filed through lawyers Shlomi Zacharia and Muhammad Shuqeir, argued that the historical site of Tel Almit (or Khirbet ‘Almīt) was inhabited during the Middle Bronze Age, around 1800 BCE, and is characterized by a settlement from various periods up to the present day. In fact, Tel Almit was the original location of the village of Anata, but the settlement was destroyed by Mohammed Pasha, the Egyptian ruler of the area in the 19th century. At the edge of the historic site is the ancient tomb of a sheikh, who is considered the founding father of the village of Anata. Ancient religious-cultural rituals were conducted around the grave, which was a place of prayer for the villagers.

Despite the clear geographical and historical connection to Anata, the site is defined as part of the jurisdiction of the Anatot settlement, and the villagers are prevented from entering it due to a military order issued by the military commander. Tours are conducted at the site for settlements and political interests, emphasizing the Jewish history of the area, disconnected from the history of Anata and its residents.

The site was declared an antiquities site by the British Mandate in 1944. It includes the remains of many buildings, mosaics, cave dwellings, cisterns, burial caves, underground systems including presses, and more. The vast majority of the site is within the village of Anata, and the lands surrounding it are regulated and owned by Anata’s residents.

According to the petitioners, the governmental transfer of archeological sites to Israeli local councils in the West Bank is part of an attempt to appropriate the land and history by the Israeli side, while creating a barrier between Palestinian residents and their lands, and between the Palestinian communities and their historical, religious, cultural and national heritage.

“This petition asks the court to put an end to this illegal conduct and to the de facto expropriation of a large area from Tel Almit historic site and adjacent lands from the petitioners and the local Palestinian community in favor of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank,” the petition states.

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